Over 150,000 strike on historic day for our union – region by region

Members in Royal Mail, BT, Openreach and Parcelforce walk out right across the country in the CWU’s biggest ever action…

Delivery, processing, network and engineering services, distribution, vehicle repair, plant maintenance and admin at two of the UK’s largest companies were hugely impacted in every corner of the country today as pickets were deployed from the early hours of the morning until late in the evening. Strikers were in good humour and high spirits, as well as disciplined and determined, united in standing up and standing together in the fight for a fair deal on pay.
Our general secretary Dave Ward staunchly defended our members, praising them for their public service, insisting that the strike action was absolutely necessary and had been effectively forced on the union by stubborn and arrogant leaderships in both Royal Mail Group and BT Group and vowed that the CWU would continue the fight and would prevail.
“Today was an historic day for the CWU – the first time we’ve ever taken simultaneous strike action virtually right across our membership. And our members have responded magnificently in every city, town and village of the UK.
“Now the ball is in the employers’ court. They need to respond positively and make real efforts to settle these disputes. We have further action planned for next week in Royal Mail and our industrial executive on the telecoms & financial services side of the union will be meeting to discuss their next steps with BT Group.
“If the employers continue in their stubborn stance, the only outcome will be further action in both companies and let them be in no doubt as to the determination and unity of purpose of this union and our members.
“Once again to our members a massive thank you, huge admiration and respect – you deserve better and we will keep up the fight.”
CWU deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger said that it was “the honour of my life to represent these people today,” and our deputy general secretary telecoms & financial service Andy Kerr insisted: “Our members want a pay rise and want it now” on the day that workers across these two companies took strike action on the same day for the first time ever.

Northern Ireland
Both Andy and Terry addressed a lively rally outside Belfast’s City Hall, Terry saying that the key worker heroes were now being “treated like zeroes by their employers,” and reminding the audience of how Royal Mail workers had turned around the company’s fortunes over recent years through their hard work and adaptability to change, but were now being told that the company could not afford a fair pay rise – although, he pointed out: “Over £700 million since July 2021 has been given to shareholders and senior managers have given themselves massive pay rises.
“They’ve had their heads in the trough,” he said and went onto criticise the business for “walking away from” the Pathway to Change agreement that was “just over a year old” and described the current dispute as being “about honour and integrity against people who’ve got none.”
In his speech to the rally, Andy Kerr made similar criticisms of the BT Group leadership and refuted senior management claims of not being able to afford a fair pay deal.
“This company cannot tell me they can’t afford a pay rise,” he insisted, adding: “This company made £1.3 billion profit last year. But they’re ‘skint’? This company can afford to give £761m to their shareholders. But they’re ‘skint’?
Andy talked of how he had been involved in the action the last time that BT workers went on strike back in 1987 and challenged the company’s bosses to a public debate on the question of affordability. “If they want that debate, then bring it on,” he said and suggested: “If they gave just 10 per cent of that £761m dividend to the workers, this dispute would be over tomorrow morning.”
Speaking to CWU News afterwards, Northern Ireland CWU secretary Erin Massey said: “It was fantastic to get Andy and Terry here to Belfast today and there were hundreds who turned up – mostly our members, but also other workers and the general public. We reckon there were around 300 or so and there were other speakers too, from NIPSA, Unite and the Belfast Trade Union Council. There was so much support and solidarity.”
The strike call had been strongly supported everywhere, Erin continued, explaining that she had visited the mail centre in the morning and had also received positive reports from picket lines all over Northern Ireland.
“It’s been a great day today and our members have responded superbly – and the weather’s stayed nice as well.”

South West
“From the conversations I’ve had, I reckon our members know they’re in the fight of their lives. They’re right behind the strike and they want a decent pay rise,” reported regional secretary Kevin Beazer, who commented that the pickets in this dispute had been far better attended than in the previous national action back in 2009.
“Loads of people have been turning up – there are units where pickets have previously not been big and have struggled, but this time are huge,” he continued, adding: “It’s also interesting to see the mood of the public – people stopping to chat, give their support, bringing food and refreshments. We’ve had some support in previous disputes but not this much and we haven’t had the moans that we’ve heard before. I feel the public mood is different – because people are all under the cosh with the cost-of-living crisis.
“I’ve been at the telephone exchange in Weston Super-Mare, around delivery offices in Bristol and I’m at the mail centre this afternoon and I think members are prepared for a long haul – that it won’t be over and done with in just a couple of days.”
Kevin estimates that “around 16,000 to 17,000” members in his region were out on strike today and says that he was impressed by the enthusiasm he has seen – “particularly among those who’ve probably never been on strike before. Very few of our BT/Openreach members would’ve been around back in 1987, while also our younger Royal Mail members weren’t with us back in 2009 – the last time there was a national postal strike.
“But some of the pickets have been the biggest I’ve seen.”

North West
“We had MPs Ian Byrne and Kim Johnson, the TUC regional secretary Jay McKenna and our own CWU vice-president Jane Loftus speaking at our rally in Liverpool,” reported our regional secretary Carl Webb, adding that it took place outside the union’s Greater Mersey Branch office.
“The trade union movement is standing up and fighting back and together we will win better,” said Jay, while Jane talked about having been to delivery office picket lines and at the Warrington parcel hub and that “everywhere is solidly on strike,” while Carl said that he had attended the telephone exchange picket and estimated that approximately 20,000 North West members had struck today.
The reason for the strong support from members was, Carl explained “the sheer injustice” of employers towards their workers, particularly in terms of pay.
“The vast majority of our members were classified as key workers during the pandemic and after all they did to keep the country going then, now they see the company bosses who sat back safe at home during the whole thing, those bosses, thinking and acting like they’re worth more than frontline workers. That’s why they have no credibility with our members,” he said.

Divisional representative Mark Dolan also reported pickets much larger, more vibrant and more popular than in past strikes and that “at Islington this morning for example, a passing bus driver wound down his window and shouted: ‘Good luck guys – we should be doing this too’!
“Our action’s really resonated with people as far as I’ve seen and there’s been none of the ‘get back to work’ abuse that’s happened other times.”
After attending his own picket, Mark, his fellow divisional rep Mark Palfrey and several others headed down to Southwark to join their striking BT colleagues at the company’s huge Columbo House site. “It was great to meet up with the BT guys and there’s certainly a lot of similarities in what we’re all up against at this time,” he said and added that, from conversations among them, the view that this dispute is likely to be a lengthy one is widely-held across both sectors of the union.
“This isn’t going to be over after a couple of one-dayers and we’ve been upfront with members on this,” Mark explained. But went onto make the point that, so far, spirits were high and that “it was great to kick off the dispute with that rally at Mount Pleasant last Friday. Great to have a few speakers and nice to hear Mick Lynch form the RMT as well as Jo Grady of UCU and Dave too.
“We need to be thinking of a few more things like this as we go on – it’s good for keeping morale up.”

Regional secretary Mark Harper compared the current Royal Mail Group and BT Group boards to the current Government, suggesting that the ‘zombie’ description could apply to these company leaderships as well as our political leadership.
“There needs to be change at the top,” he said, and also stated his support for the idea which is growing in momentum for greater co-ordination among different unions during this period in which more and more groups of workers are facing attacks in terms and conditions as well as real-terms cuts in pay.
Mark puts CWU membership in the Midlands at “around 25,000” and says that “I’ve not known things this lively before and as well as morale being high, the membership is really engaged and also we’re recruiting well too.
“I was at the BT line in Nottingham yesterday, Nottingham Mail Centre this morning, at Atherstone now and heading onto Birmingham later,” he continues, also commenting on the support and solidarity from other unions who have visited our pickets as well as several Labour MPs.
“I agree with those who see this as a potential long haul, but we can’t let it go now.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris came to Swansea Mail Centre today to show her support for our members on strike and, as well as welcoming her backing, CWU Wales secretary Gary Watkins said: “I can’t get over the number of people beeping their horns as they pass us,” adding that the site is located on a busy road and that in his opinion “perhaps people see supporting trade unions like ours as a way of protesting against the cost-of-living crisis. I think we’re reaching beyond our normal audience at the moment.”
From the sites he visited – starting from his own local Maesteg Delivery Office and including the city’s main BT site, as well as the many reports received from elsewhere in Wales, Gary judged that “It’s all been pretty good all around – great pickets out in a lot of the country.”
He also praised the activists of other unions who had expressed their solidarity with our action, including the RMT, Unite and Unison, and estimated CWU numbers in Wales & The Marches at approximately 11,500.

North East
“It’s been absolutely phenomenal up here,” says Jo Shaftoe, regional chair. “The weather turned wet after a sunny start, but that didn’t dampen our spirits and we had superb turnouts at Gosforth and South Shields where I’ve been.
“We had visitors from Unison and ACORN (the community renters’ union), which was great. And our pickets did an excellent job, managed to turn away people from going into work and also recruiting and signing up new members.”
With over 20,000 members across the region as a whole, Jo is “incredibly proud of all our picket lines and all our striking members up here across both BT Group and Royal Mail Group.
“Can we win? Definitely – our members are the ones responsible for generating profits for both employers and we’re all ready to keep fighting.”

“Members are angry and we’re just not accepting it,” is how CWU Scotland secretary Craig Anderson describes feelings among CWU strikers north of the border.
“The nation of Scotland is solid,” he declares, estimating numbers at “about 14,500” and adds: “It’s great to have both sides out on the same day for the first time in our history – a substantive effort.
“I’ve been to Govan and Cambuslang and the mail centre and also at BT’s Alex Bain House and it’s been all good here and around the country, with increased picket lines and people are really getting involved.”
Explaining members’ anger and the reasons for it, Craig puts this down to “the sheer greed of the companies.
“It’s going to be a long haul, but members are definitely up for it – today we’ve shut BT and Royal Mail down.”

“I’ve been to Colchester, Saffron Walden and Cambridge – which is one of the biggest Royal Mail units – and I’ve had reports in from other parts of the region too and it’s been a very good day for the union in my opinion,” says regional secretary Paul Moffatt.
“As well as picketing, they’ve been doing burgers and hot dogs, as well as teas and coffees and at Saffron Walden, one of our postwomen wore a post box costume – so that shows the good morale around today. The public have been great – no negative comments at all and people seem to be supporting us all the way.”
Having Royal Mail and BT on strike on the same day has been, Paul says: “Historic – and I think the more we can do this the better.
“I also think we need to co-ordinate with other unions in future as well. It’s a must now. The public see the greed of these top company leaders and I think they’d be well on board for it.
“We’re going to dig in for this one.”

South East
“It’s been an unusual day and a day I thought would never come,” said regional secretary Ruth Harris.
“I was at Canterbury Exchange and Delivery Office and then at Folkestone Exchange and Delivery Office – and at Folkestone they’re next to each other, so people got together there and seeing our members standing together, Royal Mail and BT, was a really good sight.
“There have been great reports in form other part so the region too,” she continued, with large turnouts pickets at many other South East units from among the approximately 15,000 members.
“We talk about ‘one union’ but it’s days like today that help us to really be one union in practice.”
Going forward in a wider context, she says that co-ordinated action across different trade unions is something that the TUC should be taking on board as a strategy.
“I’m hearing this a lot from people, that this needs to happen and we’re hoping something of that will come out of the TUC when they meet in a couple of weeks,” Ruth adds.